How Facebook Is Taking On "Dangerous" Speech

ReadWrite, Alicia Eler, Mar 04, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Interesting article about Facebook's response to 'dangerous speech'. The article is situated with respect to "the Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, who spent seven years in jail for inciting violence against Muslims and now advocates exiling them from Myanmar." The article lists five criteria for identifying "dangerous speech" (and therefore presumably for the banning of it or its utterers):

  • It takes place in a social or historical context ripe for violence, such as longstanding religious tensions or struggles to control valuable resources;
  • The audience has grievances or fears a speaker can exploit;
  • The speaker is highly influential or charismatic;
  • The speech is clearly understandable as a call to violence;
  • The speaker employs an influential medium—typically a radio or television station.

To me, the only criterion of any merit is the fourth: the speech is clearly understandable as a call to violence. The others are merely mechanisms for legitimizing dangerous speech emanating from more traditional agencies. I think teachers and educators should look at these criteria, and tackle the question of what counts as "dangerous speech", and what we should do about it, directly. P.S., why can't we have options like "'it’s a rumor or has false information,' 'it promotes violence,' and 'it disturbs social harmony'?" Aren't these things dangerous in North America as well?

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